Born as Peter Allen Greenbaum on October 29, 1946 in Bethnal Green, East London, England, Peter was the youngest
of Joe and Ann Greenbaum's four children.
He learned to play the guitar after his brother Michael taught him only a few chords. He'd
be teaching himself by age 11.
His main musical influences were Hank Marvin from The Shadows, BB King, and Muddy Waters as well as listening to 'some old Jewish songs'.
He began playing professionally at age 15, deciding to shorten his name to simply "Peter Green".
Peter started his career in a little band called Bobby Denim and the Dominoes which performed chart favorites and Rock 'n' Roll classics.
He went on to join the Muskrats, a R 'n' B band and then a band called The Tridents in which he played bass. Next came Peter Bardens' Looners,
(aka The Peter B's or Peter B Looners) where he met Mick Fleetwood, the bands' drummer.
This is where Peter made his recording debut with the single "If You Wanna Be Happy / Jodrell Blues". "If You Wanna Be Happy" was an instrumental cover
of a Jimmy Soul song. Peter didn't stay with The B's very long -- three months and he was gone. Peter B’s ended up becoming become the Shotgun Express. Mick stayed only for the recording of two additional singles -- then left the band himself.
In 1966, Eric Clapton the guitarist from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, decided to leave that band to form Cream. When Mayall heard the news, he immediately hired Peter
Green to replace him (not very easy to try and replace Clapton!). Mayall already knew Peter because he had played a few gigs with the Bluesbreakers when Clapton was away on a trip earlier that year.
Peter knew the Bluesbreakers repertoire because he was a big Clapton fan (or "God" as his fans called him). Peter's other bandmates in The Bluesbreakers at that time
were John McVie on bass and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. Shortly after Peter joined Mayall's band, the quartet went to the Decca Records studio in London to record their second album, "A Hard Road". Peter wrote two songs for the album, "The Supernatural" (an instrumental that was released as a single)
and "The Same Way".
Mike Vernon, a producer at Decca recalls Peter's debut with the Bluesbreakers;
As the band walked in the studio I noticed an amplifier which I never saw before, so I said to John Mayall, "Where's Eric Clapton?" Mayall answered, "He's not with us anymore, he left us a few weeks ago." I was in a shock of state but Mayall said, "Don't worry, we got someone better." I said, "Wait a minute, hang on a second, this is ridiculous. You've got someone better??? Then Eric Clapton???" John said, "He might not be better now, but you wait, in a couple of years he's going to be the best." Then he introduced me to Peter Green.
A few months later, Aynsley Dunbar left Mayall and Mick Fleetwood took his place.
For the first time Peter, Mick, and John were playing together in the same band.
For his birthday, Peter received an hour of studio time from John Mayall. During
that hour, he went into the studio with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. They
recorded four songs including the Peter Green vocal "First Train Home" and an
instrumental which Peter called "Fleetwood Mac" (after his, as he stated,
'favorite rhythm section').
Not long after, Mick was fired by Mayall for drunkenness. Then Green left the band on
June 15, 1967 to form a new group. And with the help of producer Mike Vernon, they enlisted
slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer and Peter's old friend drummer Mick Fleetwood.
John McVie, who was Peter's first choice for bass player, didn't want to leave the
Bluesbreakers right away because to him Mayall's band represented a steady gig.
So Peter recruited bassist Bob Brunning. Fleetwood Mac was born.
In the beginning, they performed as "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac featuring Jeremy Spencer". Peter
brought his reputation as a fine player with him and after about a month they had their first gig at the famous "Windsor National Jazz and
Blues Festival". The Fleetwood Mac buzz had begun.
Green, Fleetwood, Spencer, and Brunning did release a single at that time -- "I Believe My Time Ain't
Long"/"Rambling Pony" but didn't release an album until "Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac". This first album did surprisingly well and stayed on the British charts for over a year.
Strangely enough, it was also at this point that Mayall began to get into
free-form jazz, which was more than enough for the blues-purist McVie to
reconsider Green's offer in September.
The second single,
"Black Magic Woman" flopped, but a third single, an instrumental called
"Albatross" found its way to number one. A moody, beautiful piece, it
was the first sign that Fleetwood Mac was moving beyond the confines
of the blues. With "Albatross" firmly planted at number one, the band headed to the States for their first
The follow-up single for "Albatross" was another Peter Green composition,
"Man Of The World" -- a track that became a clear indicator that something was
wrong with Peter's state of mind
at the time. The lyrics were very sad. Peter had become disillusioned at that point by his fame
and increasing fortune. Although the song represented a real cry from the heart, it
ended up becoming the second smash hit for the band.
The second Fleetwood Mac album released was "Mr. Wonderful".
While touring the States again, the band played a jam-session with some
of the great blues legends like Otis Spann and Willie Dixon. The tracks they worked
on during that time can be heard on "Blues Jam At Chess".
their third album, it became more and more obvious that there was something
seriously wrong with Peter. He took a large dose of acid and it changed his
personality almost overnight. He began wearing a robe, grew a beard, and
wore a crucifix on his chest. He contributed the strange "Rattlesnake Shake"
and some particularly pessimistic songs to "Then Play On", leaving most
of the guitar contributions to Danny Kirwan, the fresh-faced fifth band member.
Mick remembers very well when Peter became concerned about his wealth;
I had conversations with Peter Green around that time and he was obsessive about us NOT making money, wanting us to give it all away. And I'd say, "Well you can do it, I don't wanna do that, and that doesn't make me a bad person."
Despite all the problems, a new Peter Green-penned single, "Oh Well", was released in 1969 and became a smash hit
in the UK and the rest of Europe.
Peter continued to grow estranged from his bandmates. In April 1970, he announced
his decision to quit the band, right in between an American and a European tour
- which he did finish under contract obligation. Before he left for good though, he did record one more
single -- the classic "The Green Manalishi".
Peter remarked about his departure;
"There are many reasons why I'm leaving. The main thing is that I feel it is time for a change. I want to change my whole life, because I don't want to be a part of the conditioned world and as much as possible, I'm getting out of it."
In the next few years, Peter did remain active musically. He released a
jamming album, "The End of the Game", in late 1970. The album was recorded
in one night. It is patchy, but suffused with wonderful moments. It would
be his last album for nine years. He did stay active in the music business though --
gigging around London, guesting on several records for artists
as diverse as Memphis Slim, Bobby Tench's Gass and B B King (among others).
He also recorded a series of singles for Reprise. In February 1971, Green
filled in temporarily for the departing Jeremy Spencer, who quit Fleetwood Mac to join
a religious cult The Children Of God. Green declined to play any of the songs
that made him (and the band) famous. The shows, as a consequence, consisted
mostly of extended jamming, with Green at one show allegedly ambling up to the
microphone yelling "Yankee Bastards!" and laughing at the audience. Legend also has
it that at this time he was jamming live on the song "Black Magic Woman" for up to 90 minutes
at a time!
After that, Green's output of new material had whittled down to next to nothing.
In 1972, two singles were released -- "Heavy Heart" (credited to Peter) and "Beast Of Burden"(credited to
Peter and to his later Splinter Group soulmate Nigel Watson).
Green also participated in the B.B. King in London sessions, playing guitar on
"Caledonia". He also
guested on The Mac's 1973 "Penguin" album to on which he played the far echo guitar
on "Night Watch" (uncredited).
There had been a possibility of Peter joining 'Stone The Crows' for a
Lincoln Festival gig. Sadly, STC's guitarist Les Harvey
had been electricuted on stage and died just a few days before.
Peter did tentatively agree at one point to do the show. He met up
and rehearsed with the band for a
day or two but then decided against doing it. Yes guitarist Steve Howe
ended up stepping in.
Peter started drifting from job to job, working as everything from a
grave digger to a hospital porter. He did, at times, jam in local pubs with
various people but he also slept on the floors of assorted friends
and acquaintances. He was even nearly married at one point. His mental state
was seriously in question, and he was, for a time, institutionalized.
He underwent electro shock therapy in a London clinic, which scared him a lot.
As Nigel Watson recalls; "Very often, after he'd had a treatment, he came into my brother's shop where I was working and which was only a hundred yards away from the hospital, and he just stood there, like, for hours, with his arms slightly in front and in a trance, telling me how very frightened of it he was". In short, he drifted while trying to put his previous life behind him.
At the beginning of 1977, Peter Green had reached a new low. He was arrested
for threatening his accountant Clifford Adams with a rifle.
(though the weapon in question was not in his hands at the time).
This regrettable incident occurred because Mr. Adams was trying to pay Green
a royalty check. Peter wanted no part of it. He wanted his royalty payments
(estimated at around 30,000 pounds a year at that time) stopped. He was sentenced
to Horton hospital, a psychiatric institution in London, and was later moved
to The Priory, a private mental health clinic.
But, as things turned out, it may have been just what Peter needed. By autumn
he was back in the studio. And his private life at that time seemed to be going much better.
He married Jane Samuels in January 1978 at Mick Fleetwood's house. They had one
daughter Rosebud-Samuels Greenbaum later that year. But unfortunately, the happiness and the marriage
didn't last long...
Now off of his legitimate medication, Peter began to find many of his bad habits catching
up with him in the form of a certain white powder. His marriage was already
on the rocks. Mick did his best to help his old friend. He secured him a record
deal with Warner Bros. which included a $400,000 advance on $1 million
for a three-record deal. But at the very moment Peter was supposed to sign
the contract in front of the record company executives, Green freaked out,
saying that it was the devil's money, and refused. An embarrassed Fleetwood
had to return the advance.
Fortunately, however, that was not the last word on Green's recordings.
1979 proved to be the year of the re-emergence of Peter Green.
Not long after a court-mandated commitment, his brother Michael
began putting out feelers to the president of PVK records, Peter Vernon-Kell.
Vernon-Kell wanted Michael's brother. And to their credit, between
Michael Green and Peter Vernon-Kell they provided exactly the right
atmosphere for Peter Green's comeback. They let him noodle around
in the studio with some friends, including his old mate Pete Bardens from
the Peter B's Looners. Gradually Peter Green's confidence was bolstered
and his natural creative instincts started to flourish in this no-pressure
environment. It worked. The resulting album, "In The Skies",a combination
of blues, rock and soul, was a marvel. The fans started supporting Peter Green again and the release did very well on the British and European charts.
Given the success of "In The Skies" in both Britain and the Continent,
PVK began to push gently for a follow-up in 1980. Green confessed that he
had virtually no new material despite the fact that "In The Skies" had
been recorded over two years before. So his brother Michael stepped in
and provided the necessary tunes. The resulting album, "Little Dreamer"
(also the title of the only Peter Green-penned song on the disc) hit
the stores in June. Like its predecessor, "Little Dreamer" is an
excellent collection of diverse songs. This album also sold well in the
In 1981 Peter was one of the guest musicians on Mick Fleetwood's album
"The Visitor". "Rattlesnake Shake" was one of the songs on that album,
and Peter Green was featured reprising his vocals with all of the energy and
fire of the original.
Peter Green's fourth solo album, "Whatcha Gonna Do?", came out
in March 1981, but only in the UK. In fact, no subsequent album of his
would be released stateside until late 1996. A shame really,
since "Whatcha Gonna Do?" uses the same formula that worked so well
for "Little Dreamer". Mike Green again wrote most of the songs,
with Peter contributing "Last Train to San Antone" and "Gotta See Her
Green's voice and guitar seem stronger with each new release.
A third Peter Green composition, ironically one that would've been
the title cut to this album, was not included. Rather, the song
"Whatcha Gonna Do?" was released at the end of the year on the
Blue Guitar compilation album. Also noteworthy about Blue Guitar
was that it included the original single version of "Apostle",
rather than the "In The Skies" LP version.
Peter Green's new disc (which had been recorded over a year before),
"White Sky", came out in June in Britain, and in Canada in the Fall. But
like every album after "Little Dreamer", it did not get released in the States.
The record is worth a listen, but one does get the feeling that Peter was
starting to unravel a bit during the proceedings. He does not contribute
any songs whatsoever (that duty had now become the exclusive province of his
brother Michael). Arguably the best track on the album is not even
sung by Peter - - again, Michael is filling in. Peter, however, is
featured on the embarrassing "The Clown", which was unfortunately selected
to be the single. A pale shadow of "Man of the World", the track
is indicative of Green's feelings about how he was being manipulated by
all around him. The strange part is that this was also written by his brother!
In 1983, Peter's album "Kolors" was released by the label
after that band ended as a barrel scraping vault clearing compilation. It does, however, highlight some of his
genius work. Peter toured with Kolors, an all-black rock band that
featured conga player Jeff Whitaker and drummer Reg Isadore,. In 1984 he played with his last project Katmandu, and later
retired again, only to become a hermit for more then six years. He lived by himself
in Richmond, battling mental illness and hearing voices. All of this was brought
upon him as a result of several years of substance abuse (LSD, cocaine and marijuana). Without a doubt this was Peter's
darkest period. He still shudders when he remembers the persecution he felt
from outside and from within. Children nearby would taunt him about his
scruffy tramplike appearance.
In 1991/92 eldest brother Len and his wife Gloria came to the rescue and he
moved out to join them and his mother in the peace of their house
in Great Yarmouth. And so began a long, slow process of recovery.
Being under treatment doesn't mean that there wasn't any Peter Green material
released. "Legend" (1988), "Last Train To San Antone" (1992), and "The
Peter Green Collection" were all released during that time -- mind you they were
compilation albums of course.
In 1995 he and his close friend Nigel Watson formed a new band called
The Splinter Group. They had already toured in 1996 for 150-shows a year
in Europe. In 1997 their first self-titled album was released which
did pretty well --especially with the old blues fans.
In early 1998, Peter
was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Many people were
stunned when, out of the blue, Peter appeared on stage with Mick Fleetwood,
John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, and Lindsey Buckingham. To open
the show, Peter and fellow inductee Carlos Santana jammed on "Black Magic Woman",
a tune which had never been a hit for Peter, but certainly was for Carlos.
Later that year, the second Splinter Group album "The Robert Johnson Songbook"
was released. To support the release of that album, they played 13 shows
in the US, with the Long Beach Blues Festival being one of them. They brought
some old Fleetwood Mac era songs back to life, including "Black Magic Woman",
"Albatross", and "The Green Manalishi". The rest of the set was made up of
songs from his own solo albums and the Splinter Group albums.
Then came a two CD live album called "Soho Sessions". This project consisted
of material recorded at Ronnie Scott's in London. Sadly, the album
was recorded the same night that former Splinter Group drummer Cozy Powell was killed (among others). The album is dedicated to Cozy.
Then came the studio album "Destiny Road" which contained an instrumental
version of "Man Of The World", a new version of "Indians"
among other pearls of blues music.
Then, The Splinter Group’s train picked up speed yet again via another
collection of Robert Johnson
songs called “Hotfoot Powder”. Next came a release entitled
“Time Traders” (clearly a return to “Destiny
Road” type material) and a collector’s CD called
“Blues Don’t Change” (which featured a cd of
blues covers that Peter recorded in just one day). The latter was sold only online
and on the Time
Next came another CD of mostly original
tunes (along with some reworks of
some old favorites--including Mac era tracks) was put out on a release called
“Reaching The Cold 100”. And in conjunction with that release came a live DVD
filmed on the tour called “An Evening with Peter Green
Splinter Group in Concert”.
Then came the unfortunate news of a difficult personal struggle that Peter had endured. During this period, he was being looked after
by a British Government
appointed agency which helps those with mental
difficulties deal with their finances.
2009 has brought the great news that Peter is healthy once again and playing the guitar with more passion than ever. In fact he has started off the year by
playing a handful of dates in Belgium and Holland along with some of his musician friends. It's great to hear of this "new beginning" for this revered genius of Fleetwood
We wish him the best in whatever he decides to do.
Research: Jan Freedland John Fitzgerald
Written by: Jan Freedland & John Fitzgerald
If you have any interesting facts or insights that you'd like to add to Peter's bio, please drop us a line.
"Peter Green founder of Fleetwood Mac" by Martin Celmins
"My Twenty-five Years In Fleetwood Mac" by Mick Fleetwood
The Peter Green Splinter Group Website